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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 September 2006, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Girl relives kidnap ordeal on TV
Natasha Kampusch (television grab)

The Austrian teenager who survived more than eight years of captivity in an underground cell has vividly described her imprisonment, in a TV interview.

Natascha Kampusch, now 18, told state broadcaster ORF that thoughts of freedom had sustained her.

"I promised myself I would grow older, stronger and sturdier to be able to break free one day," she said.

Her captor, 44-year-old communications technician Wolfgang Priklopil, killed himself after her escape on 23 August.


In an interview watched by millions, Ms Kampusch described being imprisoned in a small, windowless basement beneath Priklopil's garage in the commuter town of Strasshof, 25km (15 miles) outside the capital Vienna.

"I was very distraught and very angry," she told ORF.

I knew when I fled that I was condemning him to death
Natascha Kampusch

"It felt very claustrophobic in that small room. I threw water bottles against the walls or banged against them with my fists so that maybe someone could hear me."

She said she would have "gone crazy" if Priklopil had not allowed her out of the cell on occasion, although this did not start until six months after she was abducted.

She told ORF that on trips out with her kidnapper, she had vainly attempted to attract attention.

"I tried to give many people a sign... I tried to smile like I did on the photos (of her that were broadcast after she disappeared) so people could remember my picture."

Wearing a purple blouse and a pink scarf over her hair, Ms Kampusch repeatedly shut her eyes against the glare of the television lights during the pre-recorded 40-minute interview.

ORF said her eyes were sensitive to light because she had been confined in darkness for such a long time.

Birthday and Christmas gifts

Ms Kampusch told the interviewer she had celebrated her birthday, Christmas and Easter with her captor, who gave her gifts.

"He obviously thought that he should at least give me some sort of compensation," she said. "I think he had a very bad conscience, but he tried very hard to suppress it."

Police photo showing stairs leading to dungeon

For the first two years, Priklopil did not allowed her access to the news, but he later let her listen to the radio and read some newspapers.

"He read it, I read it... He always controlled everything," she said, adding that Priklopil would always check the pages of the material he let her read, to make sure she had not written any messages on them.

Her captor had told her he would kill himself - and others - if she escaped.

"I knew when I fled that I was condemning him to death," she said.

Ms Kampusch said she was now hoping to travel with her family and finish school before going to university.

"I had all these thoughts about what I have been missing, like my first boyfriend and all that. But I already personally fulfilled my biggest wish in the past few days - freedom!"

ORF said Ms Kampusch had decided which questions to answer and had refused to be asked anything intimate. Police have said she may have had sexual contact with Priklopil, but have refused to elaborate.

Within hours of her escape, Priklopil jumped to his death in front of a commuter train.

Escape details

Earlier, the weekly magazine News and the mass-circulation daily Kronen Zeitung newspaper published separate interviews with her.

She told News she had dreamed about decapitating Priklopil.

"Sometimes I dreamt of chopping his head off, if I had an axe. I abandoned that idea straight away, because I can't stand blood and I never want to kill somebody. But you see how the brain works when it's looking for a solution?"

Ms Kampusch told the magazine that she was afraid for others after escaping.

"I wasn't scared - I love freedom and for me death is the ultimate freedom, the redemption from him. But he said all the time he would first of all kill the neighbours, then me and then himself."

Ms Kampusch recalled how people shrugged and walked on when she asked them for help immediately after her escape.

She ran into a garden and knocked on the kitchen window of a house to attract the attention of a woman inside, she said. Despite warning her that Priklopil could kill them, Ms Kampusch said the woman was more concerned about preventing her from stepping on the lawn.

Health concerns

News said it interviewed Ms Kampusch at Vienna's General Hospital, where a cardiologist has examined her for possible heart trouble. She has said she had suffered throughout her time in captivity from heart palpitations that at times made her dizzy and blurred her vision.

Ms Kampusch has also said she often did not get enough to eat. She is reported to have weighed 42kg (92lb) at the time of her escape - the same as her weight when she was kidnapped.

News also quoted her as saying she wanted to become involved in two projects: "One for women in Mexico, who are taken from their workplace, kidnapped, tortured and raped... I want to help people starving in Africa, because I know from my own experience what it is like to be hungry."

A psychiatrist treating Ms Kampusch said she was exhausted after giving the interviews.

Max Friedrich, who heads a 10-expert team of psychiatrists and psychologists attending to Ms Kampusch, said it would take years for her to fully recover from her ordeal.

He said Ms Kampusch - who was 10 when she was abducted in March 1998 - "has not adequately lived many phases of her life" and was still struggling with her identity as a free person.

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